Sunday, February 20, 2011

House Committee Passes Legislation Making It Harder to Join a Union

As we are seeing how thousands of people have rallied in Wisconsin to express their opposition to assault the tea party supported governor in Wisconsin is leading on the public workers unions in his state, another attack on unions from the GOP on the federal level went largely unnoticed. During an Aviation Subcommittee meeting of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted on Wednesday to make it harder for FAA employees to join a union.

Much like how Governor Scott Walker wanted to impose his policies without much discussion in Wisconsin, Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Illinois) said that this move was “added without our knowledge or any discussion.” Nonetheless, the subcommittee rejected Costello’s amendment which would remove the provision that makes it harder for people to join a union. This is important because it means that the GOP is trying to jam through legislation that would harm the working class. Since he described it well during his opening statement at the hearing, here’s how Costello said the new rules would impact workers:
The National Mediation Board has a rule that sets out union election procedures in the airline and rail industry to make those procedures fair and consistent with how democratic elections are held. Under this rule, the mediation board will certify a union as the representative of airline or railroad workers if a majority of ballots cast were in favor of the union. Simply put, the majority rules – the ballots are counted and whoever wins, wins.

This bill would change the procedure and would require that any eligible worker not voting in an election, for whatever reason, would be counted as a “no” vote. As an example, if there were 100 people eligible to vote for or against joining a union, and 10 or 15 of the 100 did not cast a vote because they were sick or in the hospital – or for any other reason – even though they did not cast a ballot, they would be counted as a “no” vote in the election. H.R. 658 would repeal the mediation board’s rule and impose this outrageous procedure that is intended to make it as difficult as possible for workers to join a union. Imagine if we had to count every registered voter who did not vote in the past election in our congressional districts as a “no” vote. How many questions of public policy on the election ballot would pass if every registered voter who did not vote in the election would be counted as a “no” vote on the referendum or a question of public policy.
According to Costello, he believes that this provision will have a difficult time making it through the Senate because the anti-union movement there isn’t as strong as it is in the GOP controlled House of Representatives. This means that there could lead to some delays in authorizing funding for the FAA. That’s why he added that “if we are serious about passing a long-term FAA bill, this provision must come out.”

What I think is extremely important to note here is that both in Wisconsin and in the debate at the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, people aren’t saying that cuts cannot be made. The pro-labor side is just pointing out that the working class deserves to have its rights protected and they shouldn’t be taken away just because some elected officials want to score political points with the tea party.


  1. Uh, Costello is lying. This merely RESTORES 75 years of NMB precedent, which was consistent with the statutory language, stating that a representative be selected by "[t]he majority of any craft or class of employees," NOT the majority of those voting (as stated in the National Labor Relations Act). The rule was changed by President Barry's appointees to the NMB just two years ago.

  2. I don't see where Costello is lying, James. All he's saying is that he thinks that the decision should be made by the majority of people participating in the election. That's how most democratic (small d) elections work.

    I do understand how folks who work at an anti-labor organization like you do would want to make it harder to join a union though.

  3. I imagine you wouldn't, Bryan, since you dismiss an argument you don't bother to answer with ad hominem attack, a typical far-Lefty tactic.

    He's lying by omission. He fails to note what the rule has been for decades, what the statute actually says, and how that rule was changed by bureaucratic fiat. Forced-unionism apologists couldn't muster the votes to change the rule (you know: democratically) in Congress, so they have done so bureaucratically. Moreover, the statutory rule (so much for respecting what Congress has actually said) is rational, given the fact that an election extinguishes the individual's right to bargain and assigns it to another (a labor union). That is certainly something that people should be able to do (whether by majority vote to a MONOPOLY representative is another issue; so much for your reflexive, unthinking smear regarding an "anti-labor organization"), but whether it should be done by mere INaction is the issue here. And the old rule respects the notion that important workplace rights should not be extinguished/surrendered by mere INaction.

    Of course, the rule was changed mostly so that Delta Airlines employees could be more easily corralled into paying union dues. The strategy misfired when most Delta employees voting cast their ballots AGAINST union representation.

  4. The issue at hand still is that Costello is saying that if a simple majority of those voting want to form a union so that they can stand up to corporations, then the workers should have the right to form a union. Just because policy in the past allowed corporations to get away with making it hard for workers to organize doesn't mean their rights should continue to be abused.

  5. "Just because policy in the past allowed CORPORATIONS to get away with making it hard for workers to organize doesn't mean their rights should continue to be abused.

    You STILL don't get the point: it wasn't those eeeeevil "corporations" that were "get[ting] away" with anything; it was unions who couldn't persuade a majority of workers in some bargaining units that union representation was worth the cost.

    It's attitudes like that which, more than anything else, explain the continuing decline of labor unions in the United States.

  6. James, what I'm saying (and Costello for that matter) is that it should be up to the workers if they want to join a union. The one situation you brought up is an example of how the workers decided not to organize. If that's actually the will of the workers at Delta, then fine. Workers should simply have the option to organize a union if the majority of people casting their ballots in a fair election say the want a union.

    If you're so confident that people don't want a union, then one would think you'd be alright with having the decision made by a simple majority of people casting a ballot.